Monday, 29 February 2016

The Goggle Box

 I can't help thinkin' this piccy of me on an Esso Blue can looks a bit fey. I look like a real telly-type, don't I?

It awes me, lookin' back, how the telly has taken over our lives. That's not recent, of course. What was a rarity in the early '50s was in just about every front room by the late '60s. And we were all square-eyed.

I remember my dear old Gran, God rest 'er, saying: "Television 'as killed the art of conversation!" way back in the early '70s. And she weren't the only one sayin' it - far from it.

We called it "The Goggle Box" or "The One-Eyed Monster" - and there was so much that we just had too see, although there was only one channel, then two, then three, then four.

Do you remember Michael Miles on Take Your Pick? "Open the money! Take the box!" and Charlie Drake - The Worker - " 'Allo, my darlin'!"

Michael Miles was the presenter of "Take Your Pick" - one of our top telly faves in the '50s and '60s. We'd get real excited and join in shouting with the audience in the studio: "Open the box!" or "Take the money!"

It probably seems funny to younger folks that so few telly channels could attract such huge audiences. But we didn't really 'ave anything better to do with our leisure time. Even before telly. People said "Oh, we made our own entertainment before the telly, got the family all together, songs round the piano," - and we did. But if you'd ever 'eard my Auntie Doreen and Auntie Gladys sing, you'd understand why you couldn't really call it "entertainment".

You were much better off with Dick Barton on the wireless.

Or even Mrs Dale's Diary.

Me and my Missus didn't get telly til 1956, but we saw the Queen's coronation in 1953. Mr and Mrs Potter next door had a set, and they invited us all in. We all took some food along and we had a bit of a party. There was fruit cake, sandwiches, little three corned ones with the crusts off, 'genteel', my Missus called 'em, and flies' cemeteries.The weather was terrible in London - it was pourin' with rain, and my Auntie Doreen said: "Bad omen that. She'll 'ave a short reign, you mark my words."

ITV started in 1955, and, of course, I started my career in telly adverts three years later.

One of the things we loved was Dixon of Dock Green. It was magic - all about a policeman and the crimes in his area. It went on for donkeys' years and it had a beautiful catch phrase: " 'Evenin' All!" We were all goin' round sayin' it. Those were the days!

In fact, I'll say it again:

" 'Evenin' All!"

Brings it all back!

The late great Jack Warner. He was PC George Dixon. That was in the days when the police were portrayed as friends of the people - before they took your DNA even when you hadn't done anything, which is what 'appened to Mrs Potter's great-nephew a few years back.

The 1960s were great years for telly. I never missed The Avengers. That Mrs Peel was really something. And Dr Who started. He was a really old man then. Got younger as the years went on. Probably end up in rompers one day. And then there was Simon Dee, who used to interview people. I never liked that much, but my niece was keen. She wrote up for his autograph. And my Missus went mad on The Forsyte Saga which was a drama set yonks ago with people in old fashioned clothes and a miserable bloke called Soames.

The lovely Mrs Peel gives a baddie a karate wallop.

The '60s also gave us World Of Sport - a whole Saturday afternoon of sport. But it was always a busy time in the shop, so I never saw much of it, unless I nipped through for a butty and my Missus kept an eye.

One of my favourite telly treats was a good western and we had several of 'em - do you recall Bonanza, High Chaparral, and Alias Smith and Jones? Some of  'em ran for years, and my Missus said they were "soap operas for men". Well, all I can say is, I found the doings of Big Ben Cartwright, Hoss and all them far more fascinatin' than Hilda Ogden and Ena Sharples going on about Elsie Tanner's romantic life in't corner shop.

Bonanza - a programme for blokes. No corner shops and no hairnets.

In the late 1960s, telly went colour. First with BBC2. But BBC2 was a bit posh for us and we didn't often 'ave it on, and didn't 'ave colour anyway. Then, in 1969, they turned BBC1 and ITV colour as well, but we couldn't afford a colour set until we started rentin' one in 1978.

Now 'ere's a nice bit of 'istory. It's February 10, 1961, and there's discussion about a third TV channel. "Give it to the BBC". We ended up with BBC2 in 1964, which was the first channel to go colour - in 1967. My Auntie Doreen called it the channel for "stuck-ups", and 'appen she 'ad a point. It was 'ighbrow and 'ad lots of "culture" and foreign films with sub-titles. The advert featuring me alongside the article tickles me pink! My nephew Andy found this page in 'is local newspaper archive.

In the 1970s, we got afternoon TV on ITV (the BBC didn't do a proper afternoon service til the '80s), and my Auntie Doreen was glued to it. No afternoon was complete without Marked Personal or those posh ladies from Houseparty. I can stll see Auntie now, stubbing out her Senior Service in her Michelin Man ashtray, and saying: "And WHAT'S macramé when it's at home?"

Auntie Doreen's bakelite Michelin Man ashtray. A family heirloom, it now takes pride of place on our wall unit.

The thing that got on my wick about the telly in the 1970s was that the decade was dreary enough - with the galloping inflation, three day week, power cuts, Winter of Discontent and whatnot - without the telly companies makin' us more fed up. They seemed to get a real kick out of it - put on loads of miserable dramas set in the 1930s or 1940s like Family At War, Sam, The Stars Look Down, The Mallens and When The Boat Comes In. We 'ad enough misery in the present day without 'avin' past hard times thrust up our noses. No wonder boozin' became so popular in the '70s.

You know all that stuff about 'ow we kept cheerful durin't war? Well, the Ashton family didn't. The story began before the war had started. And they were miserable beggars even then.

And then there was The Sweeney, that showed us not only 'ooligans be'aved like 'ooligans, the police did as well. Dixon of Dock Green ended around the same time, but you couldn't call The Sweeney progress really.

Well, I didn't think so.

The 1980s brought us Channel 4 and breakfast telly, and my Missus went through a phase of "limbering up", as she called it, with the Green Goddess. But she soon stopped that. Her knees just wouldn't take it.

 Here's the Green Goddess leapin' about in public. But then it WAS the 1980s.

Channel 4 could be a bit... well... rude. They used to put a little triangle or some such on screen to warn you off the dirty programmes sometimes, but I remember my Missus bein' keen to see a film called My Wonderful Laundrette. She thought it was about time the local Washer Rama had a make-over and was hoping to pick up tips to give to Mr Patel, the owner, though I couldn't imagine the Washer Rama having neons all over the place.

Anyway, the film turned out to be a dirty, violent one, and my wife wrote in complaining about it, but, to this day, she's still waitin' for a reply.

But Channel 4 weren't all bad. It brought us Countdown. And every day, my Missus would leave me to mind the shop on my own for 'alf an 'our, brew up, bring me a cuppa through, and put her feet up to watch it. This give me a bit of time to study the racin' form.

A very fancy laundrette that was. But what they got up to on the premises didn't do much for hygene standards. Of course, I'm pretty broad minded, me. But I don't like folk flauntin' things on the box. You even get it in 'Emmerdale' these days.

We get a video recorder in the mid-1980s. "Just think!" said my Missus, "I'll never 'ave to miss Crossroads again!" But it took us about three years to work out how to set it, and by then they'd taken Crossroads off. My Missus was not impressed.

The 1980s also brought us EastEnders. It was all about folk in London, shoutin' at each other. It still is.

The end of the '80s brought satellite telly, and the '90s brought things like Big Brother - which I didn't understand.

Big hair and big barnies were the order of the day in EastEnders, which began in 1985.

Why do folk want to watch other folk sittin' around on the setee or sleepin' or keepin' chickens?

I suppose there's a lot I don't understand or don't like on telly over the last twenty years. But I used to love watchin' the Crocodile Hunter.

But we have too many channels and sifting through tryin' to find somethin' decent is 'ard work.

We used to end up watchin' Bullseye from 1987 or Dallas from 1982 or suchlike. They were the best things on.

Thank 'eavens for my allotment! And we've got a DVD player now. We've been watching Columbo and The Larkins and Murder, She Wrote lately.

At least we know we like 'em, and we don't have to keep flickin' channels to find 'em. And we don't 'ave to pay the licence fee - and that's a blessin' coz the BBC's gone right downhill.

See you soon,


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